The Defense Department announced Friday that it has put around 3,600 service members on orders to be ready to deploy around the country to help with mass vaccination efforts.
“Twenty teams are being organized to support FEMA-identified sites and will be deployed as requirements evolve. This will bring our total now to more than 4,700 active-duty personnel supporting or preparing to support FEMA,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.
The boost comes after multiple defense officials told CNN on Thursday that the Biden administration’s rollout of active-duty troops to boost vaccination capacity is off to a slow start as the Federal Emergency Management Agency sorts through requests from individual states.
With 1,110 troops already on alert to deploy, around 4,700 personnel are now on orders to be ready to move within 96 hours of receiving final orders after designated vaccination sites are approved by FEMA and the states. By establishing a large pool of military personnel, the Pentagon can respond more quickly as FEMA reaches agreements with states on vaccination sites.
The troops cannot move to locations until those agreements are finalized. Now troops will be automatically drawn from the pool without the delay of deployment orders each time, officials say.
Of the 1,110 troops already on alert to deploy, a team of 222 is going to Los Angeles from Fort Carson, Colorado. That team should begin vaccination operations in Los Angeles early next week.
Of the 20 additional teams there will be 10 teams of about 220 personnel expected to go to large-scale vaccination sites and 10 smaller ones of about 139 people.
“I want to stress the very deliberate and phased approach that we’re taking here, working in lockstep with FEMA and with other federal government authorities here to make sure that what we’re trying to do is be ready when we’re needed,” Kirby said.
Establishing standing pools of troops to be ready to quickly move is already underway. For months, hundreds of medical personnel have been on standby and deployed in groups at various times around the country to help civilian hospitals overwhelmed with caring for Covid-19 patients.